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The Quest of the Silver Fleece

Twenty-one: The Marriage Morning
Mrs. Vanderpool watched Zora as she came up the path beneath the oaks. "She walks
well," she observed. And laying aside her book, she waited with a marked curiosity.
The girl's greeting was brief, almost curt, but unintentionally so, as one could easily see,
for back in her eyes lurked an impatient hunger; she was not thinking of greetings. She
murmured a quick word, and stood straight and tall with her eyes squarely on the lady.
In the depths of Mrs. Vanderpool's heart something strange—not new, but very old—
stirred. Before her stood this tall black girl, quietly returning her look. Mrs. Vanderpool
had a most uncomfortable sense of being judged, of being weighed,—and there arose
within her an impulse to self-justification.
She smiled and said sweetly, "Won't you sit?" But despite all this, her mind seemed
leaping backward a thousand years; back to a simpler, primal day when she herself,
white, frail, and fettered, stood before the dusky magnificence of some bejewelled
barbarian queen and sought to justify herself. She shook off the phantasy,—and yet how
well the girl stood. It was not every one that could stand still and well.
"Please sit down," she repeated with her softest charm, not dreaming that outside the
school white persons did not ask this girl to sit in their presence. But even this did not
move Zora. She sat down. There was in her, walking, standing, sitting, a simple
directness which Mrs. Vanderpool sensed and met.
"Zora, I need some one to help me—to do my hair and serve my coffee, and dress and
take care of me. The work will not be hard, and you can travel and see the world and live
well. Would you like it?"
"But I do not know how to do all these things," returned Zora, slowly. She was thinking
rapidly—Was this the Way? It sounded wonderful. The World, the great mysterious
World, that stretched beyond the swamp and into which Bles and the Silver Fleece had
gone—did it lead to the Way? But if she went there what would she see and do, and
would it be possible to become such a woman as Miss Smith pictured?
"What is the world like?" asked Zora.
Mrs. Vanderpool smiled. "Oh, I meant great active cities and buildings, myriads of
people and wonderful sights."
"Yes—but back of it all, what is it really? What does it look like?"
"Heavens, child! Don't ask. Really, it isn't worth while peering back of things. One is sure
to be disappointed."
 
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